|A Surface tablet computer advertisement on a street in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. In October, Microsoft Corp launched the company's first self-branded tablet to challenge Apple Inc's iPad. (Photo from China Daily)|
Microsoft to invest at least $500 million to boost R&D in China
With a constant gracious smile on his slim face, Ralph Haupter, the first non-Chinese chief executive officer to run international software provider Microsoft Corp's China business, likes to show the public he has everything under control.
"China is a very dynamic market for Microsoft and its strong desire to improve is fueling the nation's drive forward," said Haupter, vice-president of Microsoft and chairman and CEO of Microsoft Greater China.
"Working in China is like riding a wave," the 43-year-old said.
Confidence is the key to success. It is especially true as Microsoft is on the brink of rebuilding itself into a company driven by mobile Internet, the next battlefield for global IT giants including Google Inc, Apple Inc, IBM and Samsung Electronics Co.
"The PC market is slowing down. Tablets are attracting more and more excitement. The mobile sector in 2013 will be extremely dynamic," the CEO predicted.
On Oct 26, Microsoft launched Surface, the company's first self-branded tablet, to challenge Apple Inc's iPad.
On the eve of Surface's global debut, Haupter handed the first unit of the device to a Chinese customer at an electronic goods retail store in Beijing.
"Surface is the product of our dreams, what a device should look like in addressing the capabilities of Windows 8," he said, adding that the company's Surface strategy "worked very well".
Haupter declined to predict the sales volumes for Surface in 2013, saying there are too many unknown variables in the equation.
Analysts argue that Microsoft's new gadget will face strong challenges from Apple and Samsung.
"Surface will have a limited impact on the sales of iPads because, as a software company, Microsoft's lack of hardware-making experience will eventually hinder its Surface strategy," said Li Yanyan, an analyst from industry research company Analysys International.
However, that is a notion Haupter dismisses out of hand. He said Microsoft is drawing up a new and bigger strategy.
The tablet is a stepping-stone for Microsoft toward mobile Internet. The company's trump card is Windows 8, an operating system that the executives expect can compete with Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
In this respect, Surface is the most expensive advertisement Microsoft has invested to promote Windows 8, the company's latest operating system that could run on different types of devices including PCs, tablets and smartphones.
"Microsoft hopes Surface can motivate, inspire and attract other original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, to develop Windows 8-based devices in all kinds of ways," Haupter said.
As other manufacturers join the fray, iPads will face challenges from a group of Windows 8-based devices.
"I think all the OEMs are excited and totally committed to Windows 8 because it provides them with an opportunity to develop a broad band of devices running the same operating system," Haupter said.
Although Surface may compete with other OEMs' products in the short term, the device will help Windows 8 to establish its own ecosystem and lure more customers in 2013, said Scott Lin, Greater China president of Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Acer Inc.
Microsoft has certified 1,500 devices running Windows 8 for the global market over the coming months, said a company report.
Chinese customers are starting to see Microsoft moving from operating systems toward a broad environment of different experiences, said Haupter.
"I want the customers to know that we have some interesting and cool products for them because China's consumer IT market is driven by pure natural interest," he said.
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